Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday Five: Our Daily Bread

I love bread. There's a reason why people bake bread in houses they are trying to sell - the smell is divine. The way the loaf rises in the oven is almost magical (yes, I know it's actually due to a chemical reaction involving the yeast, but that's somehow not as romantic) and there is a wonderful symbolism in breaking bread to share with others. Of course many Bible stories feature the humble loaf, but it's more than that. So with apologies to my carbohydrate and gluten-free friends:

5 Favourite Breads:
  1. Baguettes - cycling through French vineyards with one of these tucked into the panniers, knowing we were soon to devour it with gooey cheese, fresh tomatoes and a bottle of bubbly... The anticipation was almost as good as the event. Almost.
  2. Calzone in Florence and Siena - the Italian sandwich; easy to eat while sight-seeing, walking and standing, or simply sitting in the piazza watching la passeggiata.
  3. Granary bread from Asda - fond memories of coming home after school and eating this with lashings of butter and jam in the kitchen (the warmest place in the house) with mum. She would be marking books and we would drink Vimto and chat about nothing.
  4. Garlic naan - as long as you both have it. From a good restaurant or curry house it tastes delicious, but it tastes strong and the flavour lingers, if you know what I mean...
  5. Jamaican gingerbread - I usually think savoury with bread, but this sweet treat is another happy childhood reminiscence.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Quote for Today

"Instead of reading for research, or to steal, there are books that recalibrate the original, childish joy of reading to escape. This in turn reignites the urge to write" - Richard Beard as quoted in The Independent

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Ninth Annual Blackhurst Beer Festival (Part Two)

And here is the continuation...

Beer Number Six - Peak Brewery, Sollinger Bock (6.5%, New Zealand)
Peak Brewery is a certified organic brewery based in Masterton making beer along classic British and European lines. They name all their beers after him and mountain ranges – the Solling range is in Central Germany, near the city of Einbeck where this style of beer is reputed to have originated (‘bock’ being a derivative of ‘beck’).

A bock is a strong lager of German origin (originally dark, although modern examples range in colour from light copper to brown) with several substyles including maibock (or helles bock), which is a paler, more hopped version generally made for consumption at spring festivals and (Northern hemisphere) Easter.

Colour: Hazy amber golden
Nose: Yeast; hops
Taste: Yeast; banana; fruity; tangy; touch of spice; leathery finish

I’ve had this before – smoked gone right
Pineapple, mango, citrus, tangelo, watermelon, grass, horse piss and green tea – tasty; chewy; mmmm
Tobacco flavours, smoky cigarette water but quite nice
Mmmm, I like this; fizzy little number
Mmmm, nice with Huntley and Palmers and crackers but still a little sweet for a whole night worth of drinking
All my sensory organs have deserted me – wait... floral delicate nose; perfumed rose water
Yes please – malty; I can taste brown sugar
Tastes like home brew but isn’t – indescribable

And this was our winner - with 74 points it was the favourite in 1st place!

Beer Number Seven - Moylan’s Kilt Lifter (8%, USA)
Brendan Moylan was just a normal chap in California with an accounting degree. Naturally he realised this was incredibly dull and bought himself a Christmas present of a beer brewing kit. ‘One thing led to another’ and he had soon built his own brew pub. This is beginning to sound familiar.

His beer has since won six gold and four silver medals at the World Beer Championships, and was the California Champion at the US Beer Tasting Championships seven times out of the last ten. This is no mean feat as beer in America has come a long way, baby. Moylan claims, ‘Prohibition in this country ended our brewing tradition. Budweiser and a few others moved in fast and captured many of the larger markets. Now we’re entering a new phase of beer brewing. I think you’ll see it continue to grow.’ How very perspicacious.

The Kilt Lifter is, unsurprisingly, a Scotch-style ale (also known as Wee Heavy), described as robust and strapping. The term Scotch Ale was first used to describe ales exported from Edinburgh in the 18th century and is a popular term in the USA. It is not to be confused with what French and Belgian brewers call Scotch Ale, by which they mean peat-smoked, malt-flavoured beers. The ale should be slightly warmed in the glass to ‘enhance the truly bold character’ and ‘sharing is encouraged’.

Colour: Dark ruby-amber with ferocious off-white head (little retention)
Nose: Dark roasty chewy caramel malt; nuttiness and graininess; oak and earthy notes
Taste: Strong malt profile; complex spices and oakiness; toasted biscuit; caramel custard; figs and dates; earthy hops round out the finish

Smoked fruit salad served with a whisky side – quite acidic – Scottish?
Strawberry liqueur followed by marmite and a fag
Sweet with horse manure and malt overtones
Pudding – dark chocolate overtones; dates; caramel sauce – reminds me of Speights’ Old Dark Ice Cream
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup; peat single malt
Smells like the rubbish bin after the bin men have been – Tastes better than it smells
Peachy, malty liqueur

Apart from one person who liked it very much, and one person who really didn't, this beer recieved the most average award of the evening and came in equal 5th position with 48 points.

Beer Number Eight - De Molen Heen & Weer (9.5%, The Netherlands)
De Molen is Dutch for the mill – in the Netherlands, all mills are windmills unless specifically stated. Heen and Weer means back and forth, because the De Molen Brewery has two separate locations and the beer folk spend a lot of time driving between the two – those crazy Dutchies!

It is an Abbey Triple style: the term ‘Abbey Beers’ was originally given to any monastic or monastic-style beer. In a champagne-esque move, the Union of Belgian Brewers introduced the logo ‘Certified Belgian Abbey Beer’ in 1999 which could only be borne by beers brewed under license to an existing or abandoned abbey, with the monastery having control over certain aspects of the commercial operation and reaping a proportion of the profits. Heen and Weer is not one of those, but just has a vaguely monastic branding.

The term ‘triple’ comes from the Low Countries and is believed to relate to the strength of the beer as indicated by the number of crosses on the cask – X being the weakest strength, XX being medium strength, and XXX being the strongest (approx 3% abv, 6% abv, and 9% abv respectively).

Colour: Hazy orange
Nose: Sweet malt; soapy sprucy hops; vegetable notes; apples; oranges; sweet caramel; gentle toffee; brown sugar
Taste: Sweet fruits and huge malt; oats and oranges; coriander; wheaty yeasty; honey; aggressive alcohol; slightly bitter with a malty hop aftertaste

Patchiouli and malt – strong malt flavour with no hops – high alcohol?
Tastes good at first but fizzles out
Malty fizzy golden syrup
Clear, refreshing on the back of the tongue
Starting to get a smooth finish with whisky overtones – must be North of the border
Toffee caramel – not for me, thank you
Smooth, cooling caramel – like eating caramello
Smelled peaty at first, then less so, then rusty aftertaste

Strong, malty and chocolately caramel must be popular among the group as this beer ranked 3rd with 68 points.

Beer Number Nine - La Guillotine (9%, Belgium)
In 1906 Leon Huyghe founded Brouwerij Huyghe in the city of Melle in East Flanders on the site of a brewery which had been in operation since 1654. La Guillotine was first brewed in 1989 to commemorate the bicentennial of the French Revolution, which had such a devastating effect on the Belgian monasteries and the associated breweries. In 1790 the National Assembly seized all church lands and all religious orders were officially dissolved. Those religious buildings that didn’t close were destroyed and any remaining priests and monks were imprisoned or massacred.

La Guillotine has top-fermentation with re-fermentation in the bottle. It is curious as to why a Belgian brewer would choose to commemorate such an event, but perhaps the suggestion is that at 9%, more than two of these strong blond beers would cause you to lose your head.

Colour: Clear golden
Nose: Lemon; tulip petals; toast; spicy; yeasty; earth; grass; candied sugar; golden syrup; fruit cake; cereal
Taste: Lemon; leaves; cloves; grapes; sweet bready malt; light honey hints; soft caramel; vanilla; cough drop

Aromatic, but not in a way that appeals, sorry
Like the previous one but keeps on giving – me likey!
Smooth, sweet and fresh
Not overpowering – I like it
Must have overloaded my taste buds – I can’t taste a blinking thing – Lemony Snicket
I did not detect lemon, grass, candied sugar, fruit cake, or tulip petals – I did get a hint of Chester’s urine
Syrupy smooth with a light finish
Lime and malt; great taste. Sell the family car; we’re buying the brewery – Yum!

Quite a popular little number (it appears we like them strong), this came second overall with 71 points.

Beer Number Ten - Ise Kadoya Stout (5%, Japan)
According to the label, ‘Ise Kadoya has made miso and soy sauce according to ancient tradition in a centuries-old wood building in old Ise, and now brews beer in small batches in the same traditional, natural way.’ Perhaps someone should tell them the process is a little different...?

They also have a restaurant and recommend this stout as an accompaniment to their oyster dishes. The restaurant was originally established to provide nourishment for the numerous pilgrims that journeyed to Ise City (one of the most sacred cities of the Shinto religion) and Ise Shrine from all over Japan.

Colour: Black opaque with thin tan head
Nose: Deep dark chocolate; roasted grain; coal smoke; cherry skins; some milkiness
Taste: Roasted grain; dark chocolate; caramel; soy sauce; dry roast malts; convincing ashiness; smoking toast; tingly mouthfeel; coffee finish

Brown sugar but quite light in the mouth; sour rather than bitter – dark lager
Black beer – fizzy tarmac
Chocolate liquorice; candyfloss beer
I’ve run out of descriptive words
Fizzy dark – the champagne of darks, only it smelt like curry
Spaz’s home brew – I have just realised that may look offensive – I mean, perhaps a good start?
Gassy for a stout – not creamy and heavy as I expected
Smells of chocolate; malty

Not a spectacular finish, perhaps because expectations weren't met. This beer was awarded 44 points and finished 8th equal.
So the winner on the night was the Kiwi offering, which is interesting to note. Also of interest was the fact that the beers that I like (the hoppy, bitter ones with clean refreshing bite) were not popular with the group. I can only imagine that this is because for the first time in nine Blackhurst beer festivals, our tasters were predominantly New Zealanders.

Thanks to all for taking part in our not-at-all-scientific tasting extravaganza. And so, for another year, that's all folks!